Chapter published in:Developing Narrative Comprehension: Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives
Edited by Ute Bohnacker and Natalia Gagarina
[Studies in Bilingualism 61] 2020
► pp. 198–229
Bilingual children’s lexical and narrative comprehension in Dutch as the majority language
Background. Some studies find that bilingual children perform below monolinguals on language measures, whereas other studies report no differences. For the purpose of this study, we investigated the Dutch lexical and narrative comprehension of bilingual Tarifit-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch children. We compared the bilingual and monolingual children’s performance. Within the bilingual groups, we explored relationships with language input at home. Methods. 114 children participated (38 Tarifit-Dutch, 31 Turkish-Dutch, 45 monolingual Dutch), most of whom were 5 or 6 years old at the first testing time (mean age = 5.71 years, standard deviation = 0.64). The children were tested three times with one year between each testing time. Lexical and narrative comprehension were investigated with the Dutch version of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT; Schlichting, 2005) and the Dutch version of the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN; Gagarina et al., 2012), respectively. Both answers to listening comprehension questions and questions after story generation were analyzed. Results. Bilingual children performed lower on lexical comprehension than monolingual children. Narrative comprehension showed few differences across the two groups: the monolinguals performed slightly better on the comprehension questions after story generation at time 1, but not at times 2 and 3. Between-group comparisons within the bilingual group showed no differences in lexical comprehension of the Turkish-Dutch and Tarifit-Dutch children. The Turkish-Dutch children performed better than the Tarifit-Dutch children on narrative comprehension after story generation (time 2). In the bilingual sample, most relations between input at home and lexical and narrative comprehension were not significant, except for the positive correlations between socioeconomic status (SES) and lexical comprehension (times 2 and 3) in the Turkish-Dutch sample and home language richness and listening comprehension in the Tarifit-Dutch sample (time 1). Conclusions and implications. Results of the current study showed larger gaps between monolinguals and bilinguals for lexical comprehension compared to narrative comprehension, suggesting that bilingual children’s comprehension of narratives in the majority language benefits more from transfer than lexical comprehension does. Previous observations regarding the impact of input at home might not hold across all bilingual groups. Different home practices and cultures may moderate the effects of language richness on narrative comprehension. The same is true for the impact of SES on bilingual children’s lexical comprehension. Conclusions about bilingual language development cannot be generalized across language domains or across bilingual populations.
Keywords: narrative comprehension, lexical comprehension, socioeconomic status, linguistic home environment, Tarifit-Dutch, Turkish-Dutch
Published online: 10 December 2020
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